Master Luthier Exhibit at Pacolet JAM benefit concert

Tryon Fine Arts Center will host a benefit concert for the Junior Appalachian Musician program on Thursday, July 24 at 7 p.m. on the Veh Stage. The concert, featuring Virginia Luthiers Gerald Anderson and Spencer Strickland, will raise money to provide scholarships for area students to participate in Pacolet JAM, scheduled to begin in September. Prior to the concert, there will be a silent auction as well as a display of instruments built by headliners Gerald Anderson and Spencer Strickland, who will be in town teaching a guitar building class at Tryon Arts and Crafts.

Anderson began making mandolins 31 years ago in Wayne Henderson’s shop and has since crafted more than 200 instruments. After he graduated from college, Anderson spent considerable time in the famous guitar maker’s busy workshop in Rugby, Va. observing and playing music with Henderson. Soon he developed an interest in making his own fine-quality instruments and set out to reproduce the sounds of the classic Gibson-Loar mandolins of the 1920s. He shared a workspace with Henderson until recently when Anderson moved his tools and instruments into the bottom level of his home. Over the past 30 years, Anderson has built over 110 guitars and 160 mandolins. Recently, he has completed instruments for Mumford and Sons, Carl Jackson (who used his new guitar on the recent Bristol Sessions project), and Dolly Parton.


Gerald Anderson and Spencer Strickland play with an exuberance and joy that is infectious. Whether they are jamming in the sawdust of their instrument-making shop, at a local performance in Grayson County, Virginia, on a festival stage, or in the recording studio, Gerald and Spencer play from the heart and never hold back.

Gerald grew up in Troutdale, Virginia, a small rural town in musically rich Grayson County. He didn’t play much as a boy, but started picking more regularly as a student at Emory and Henry College. In 1976, he received the opportunity of a lifetime, apprenticing in the shop of legendary guitar builder and player Wayne Henderson. Gerald worked in Wayne’s shop for 31 years. There he was able to hone the craft of guitar and mandolin making, as well as bear witness to a lot of great jokes and some fine guitar playing by Wayne and his constant flow of hot-picking companions. Much like Wayne, Gerald became known over the years both as a fine luthier and as a gifted player. His crowning achievement was winning the prestigious Guitar Contest at the 2003 Galax Fiddler’s Convention.

Spencer grew up in Lambsburg, Virginia, near the North Carolina border in Carroll County. Born into a musical family, he began taking mandolin lessons from local player and sound engineer Wesley Easter when he was about 10 years old. Spencer’s playing developed quickly, and in 2004 he became one of the youngest contestants ever to take home the coveted title of “Best All-Around Performer” at the Galax Fiddlers Convention, later winning the mandolin contest at Merlefest. Spencer has quickly become a mandolin player of choice in Southwest Virginia, and has appeared on numerous recordings, including the Buddy Pendleton CD in the Crooked Road Series.

Spencer apprenticed with Gerald in mandolin making through the Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Program at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, and the two quickly formed a strong working partnership and friendship. Since the apprenticeship, “Anderson and Strickland Stringed Instruments” have become greatly coveted by musicians throughout the region and the country. “Anderson-Strickland” has also come to signify the name of the performing duo, which has gained popularity for its clean, searing instrumentation and soulful vocal harmonies.

This recording presents Gerald and Spencer at their best. They are joined here by two members of the smoking-hot bluegrass band No Speed Limit; Jacob Eller (bass) and Josh Pickett (guitar), as well as the legendary Jimmy Edmonds (fiddle) and John Saroyan (banjo). Fittingly, these recordings were made just a few miles down the road from Lambsburg in the Cana, Virginia recording studio of Wesley Easter, the man who taught the young Spencer his first licks on the mandolin. Wesley even joins in on banjo. The result is Crooked Road Music at its finest, played by two good friends, having fun and laying it down.